Morning Brew - ☕️ The cloud is not a cloud

Plus, three questions with an EV charging vet.
Morning Brew June 29, 2022

Emerging Tech Brew

Paradox

Hello. Last Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years of precedent providing necessary abortion protections across the US.

Several tech companies, including Meta and Google, have offered to cover the costs of employees who need to travel out of state for abortions, but the companies have been quiet on the question of how they’ll protect the user data that could eventually help prosecute those seeking abortions, like search history, location data, or private messages.

In today’s edition:

Tech creates more CO2 emissions than aviation
The current state of US EV charging

Grace Donnelly, Dan McCarthy

CLOUD COMPUTING

The physical footprint of the cloud

image of servers with a cloud over top Francis Scialabba

Hearing about greenhouse-gas emissions might evoke images of clouds billowing out of smokestacks or spurting from tailpipes, but the digital cloud has a role too.

Because many of the goods and services tech companies provide seem to exist only on our screens, it can be hard to connect them back to the environmental impacts of things like the hardware they run on and the data centers that store them.

“The modern factory really is the cloud,” Rory Brown, head of sustainability at UK-based startup Greenpixie, told Emerging Tech Brew. “And the cloud is not a cloud. It’s a series of massive concrete buildings connected by wires around the world, sometimes plugged directly into old power stations.”

By the numbers: Efforts to more accurately measure greenhouse-gas emissions from the infrastructure and devices that enable modern computing have found that they account for about 2%–4% of the global total—a bigger carbon footprint than the aviation sector.

  • Some researchers expect these tech emissions to increase further, as the global economy continues to digitize and advanced AI and machine learning demand more computational power.
  • Computing power demands are now doubling approximately every two months, compared with every 24 months prior to 2012, according to researchers.

“Especially with so many companies rightly thinking that if you move as much online as possible, you’re minimizing your emissions,” Brown said. “It’s true, of course, but it doesn’t mean that it has no impact.”

Looking ahead...Software startups like Greenpixie and Supercritical aim to help tech companies measure and reduce their digital carbon emissions, which aren’t covered as neatly by existing standards, according to execs from each firm.

“Because tech is pretty new, our sources of emissions are new,” Michelle You, CEO of Supercritical, told us. “We’re all figuring it out together.”

Keep reading about the vast world of tech-industry emissions here.GD

        

TOGETHER WITH PARADOX

Hiring software that simplifies the search

Paradox

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You will notice, however, just how much it streamlines your hiring process with screening, interview scheduling, and onboarding, all smoothly automated via text message. 

Yep, all that admin work just went poof. Save hours, find great people, and reduce time to hire by over 50% with tech that gets it.

See for yourself here.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Checking in with the chargers

A charging battery Francis Scialabba

Two weeks ago, we covered the emergence of a potential US EV-charging giant when Blink Charging bought SemaConnect.

Last week…We caught up with Blink president Brendan Jones as part of our monthly Twitter Spaces series on the fast-evolving world of climate tech. You can check out the full recap—including audio—here. Below is an excerpt from one part of our conversation.

On the need for software to scale up, not just hardware

Building a 500,000-strong public EV-charger network will require a ton of hardware to be manufactured and installed. But it will also require significant investment in software, Jones said, in order to ensure chargers don’t fail due to network reliability issues.

“We’ve been staffing up for the last 18 months on developers, app developers, cybersecurity, everything, because you’ve got to move this into a new technology era,” Jones said.

  • Blink has a development center in India with 40 engineers working on troubleshooting, he added, and with its acquisition of SemaConnect, the company inherited a “massive” development team.
  • In total, he said, the company of ~420 has nearly 100 employees on its engineering team.

Also…“It’s not just the charging experience,” Jones said, noting that software is also needed to stitch together the back-end connection between a charging station and energy sources like battery storage and solar.

“Every company that is going to be here in 10 years is doubling and tripling down on app development, software, new integrations, vehicle-to-grid, vehicle-to-home, and then, battery and storage integration simultaneously,” he said.

Check out the full recap here, which touches on infrastructure-law money and EV-charging consolidation.DM

        

BITS AND BYTES

image of renewable energy sources and other climate tech Francis Scialabba

Stat: Brookfield Asset Management raised a $15 billion “global transition fund” to invest in companies working on the energy transition.

Quote: “This idea that we’re going to just scale up the current large language models and eventually human-level AI will emerge—I don’t believe this at all, not for one second.”—Yann LeCun, Meta’s chief AI scientist, to MIT Technology Review

Read: Crispr, the revolutionary gene-editing tool, turned 10. Nowadays, even high schoolers are tinkering with it.

Life hack: Link your crypto and NFT assets to CoinTracker—it’s the easiest way to peek at your portfolio in real time, generate tax forms, and gain valuable insights. Join over 1 million users here.*

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WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • In late September, we’re hosting a full-day event exploring the intersections of emerging technology and food, energy, and health. Last call for early-bird tickets—buy ’em now and save $200.
  • GM said it would add plug-and-charge capabilities to its EVs. Plug and charge = a way to streamline the experience of paying and fueling an EV at a public charger.
  • Cadillac’s flagship EV will rely heavily on 3D-printed components.
  • GlobalWafers announced a $5 billion plan to build a silicon-wafer manufacturing facility in Sherman, Texas.
  • Data-center capex grew at its fastest pace in three years in Q1 2022.
  • Amazon announced CodeWhisperer, a competitor to GitHub’s Copilot.

Snap poll: Have you ever used a programming helper like Copilot or CodeWhisperer?

Yes
No
I don’t code

TECH THINGAMABOBS

For Apple rumors: Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims the company is gearing up to release its “game-changing” AR/VR headset in January 2023.

For Starlink under the stars: A review of Starlink RV, a portable satellite-broadband service from the SpaceX subsidiary.

READER POLL

Execs, analysts, and economists have all warned of a likely recession ahead. And now you can add ETB readers to the list.

Last week, just 59% of respondents to our snap poll said they expect the US to enter into a recession in the next 12–18 months. About 23% said they did not expect a recession, and the remaining 18% said they had no clue what’s going to happen.

  • We had nearly 3,000 respondents.

Interestingly, these responses track pretty closely with a WSJ executive poll we cited last week, in which 60% of execs said they expect a recession in the next 12–18 months.

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Written by Grace Donnelly and Dan McCarthy

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